Seeing Bees in the Ground

Walking out in my yard the other afternoon, I was staring at the ground looking a small plant when a movement caught my eye. As I looked closer I came to realize it was something completely unexpected and intriguing; the sight of a native bee, hard at work building her burrow.

The natural order of the terrestrial world depends on plants to recharge our air by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and feeding the herbivores (plant eating animals) upon which the higher food chain depends. So the role of the world’s pollinators who help plants create their seeds is crucial to life on this plant. As gardeners we can play a very important role in helping to feed and provide habitat for our pollinators. One garden at a time becomes millions of gardens that support essential pollinators.

Bees are a major factor in the pollinating equation who, along with bats, hummingbirds, flies, moths, butterflies, wasps and many other creatures, help plants in nature and in our gardens, fields and orchards set fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. We have been sobered by the news about struggling honey bee populations in North America and Europe. So we need to appreciate the roll some 3,000 species of non-honey bees, our native bees and bumblebees, have in providing for pollination when the honey bees populations are decreasing and stressed. As with anything in nature, diversity is the name of the game and 3,000 species of native bees compose a formidable “workforce”.

So getting back to my original story; I was thrilled to see an industrious native bee (who as a group are solitary insects that nest primarily in the ground) hard at work in the soft ground making a nest to raise her young. I had never seen a burrowing native bee at work in the ground. And it made me feel good and hopeful that this bee’s offspring would be pollinating my garden and fruit trees next spring.

10 thoughts on “Seeing Bees in the Ground”

  • geri aron

    I have a question...You often show "rabbit proof" plants in your catalogue but what about native plants that rabbits love? We have coyotes here in Park Plazas and would like to keep them here but need to know what rabbits eat so we can be assured the coyotes will have food (besides an occasional cat).
    Thanks, geri aron

    • David Salman

      I don't recommend planting to attract rabbits so you can feed the coyotes. Rabbit populations grow and shrink without any intervention from humans. Rabbit populations are dependent on the amount of forage (food) in their native habitat, not in our gardens. Coyotes are dangerous and unpredictable and eat more than "an occasional cat." They attack (and often kill) smaller dogs. I speak from personal experience on this one.

  • Rhonda Fleming Hayes

    David: I realy appreciate the bee photo...I have been researching and writing an article on Herbs and Pollinators for The Herbarist...and that is one of the best photos I've come across that shows ground-nesting.
    I disturbed one the other day while weeding and held it in my gloved hand for a moment, much to my surprise. For just a second I felt that buzzing energy at my fingertips!

  • debbie

    interesting. did not know anything about "native bees." My neighbor had some hives that were destroyed during a brush fire a few years back (bees OK, they just didn't come back). We have planned to have some hives between our two properties (10 acres). Took the bee classes in Las Lunas last year, read up on the topic, my neighbor has bleanced out and rebuilt the boxes etc. Problem is the lack of queen bees available to start a hive/and or a swarm. We are on a couple of waiting lists. Do you have any contacts or connection to solve this problems. In the meantime, over the winter, I'll do a little more research on these "native bees." Sound fascinating and thanks for sharing.

  • Anna Arthur
    Anna Arthur 10/25/09 at 4:47 am

    My mother has had butterfly amaryllis for years that have multiplied a lot. She has only repotted when the pots broke. She is an extremely successful gardener but has not been able to get this particular amaryllis to bloom. She has many other kinds that bloom great. I have scoured the internet for suggestions but have not found anything different than what she has done. She is 89 and frustrated that she has not had success. Do you have any suggestions? I appreciate your help.

  • [...] is a cool article on native bees. I will post about bees often, as I have many thoughts about them- they are such great animals that [...]

  • Caroline Lawson
    Caroline Lawson 11/18/09 at 2:50 pm

    My front yard is an English Garden done with xeric plants. I have so many wild bees, from tiny, tiny bees to 1+ inch bumble bees and carpenter bees. When I walk outside in summer I'm greeted with a symphony of buzzing. I love my bees more than I love my butterflies (which are getting fewer in number every year). I've often seen bees burrowing in the ground.

  • Jeanine Hewitt

    Thank you for the "seeing Bees in the ground - we are wildlife habitat registered and every spring Sliding Ridge Honey put their beehives in our field - we carry your plants here in Utah and they do very well, salvia, agastache jerusalem sage etc.. we also have a wild flowers garden solely for bees including water fall and ponds with kois - our grass is buffalo grass we are at the base of the Wellsville mountain and have used your plants in the past in the midwest and Tucson Az I must say they do very well here in Utah - I have arthristis in my hands and once in a while appreciate a sting here in there helps with the pain.

  • Nikki Purcell
    Nikki Purcell 01/15/10 at 10:50 am

    Mr. David Sir,

    Among a large and spreading yucca patch and a sprinkling of Siberian Elm I have discovered a moderate amount of bees sharing the ground area. They have previously made known thier presence when trying to trim down and hopefully remove the elm. I would like to give another try at eliminating the elm and the spreading yucca, to relandscape. Is there a safe time to start digging to protect the bees.

  • Pat Bleecker
    Pat Bleecker 05/01/10 at 4:46 am

    Recently discovered High Country Gardens and this morning discovered this marvelous blog.

    Had no idea there were so many fellow bee lovers out there. We have little mason bee "houses: here and appreciate the little workers and their early awakening.

    Could I ask Caroline Lawson for more information about her garden - what I have always admired and didn't know was possible - both English and xeric and all for bees.

    Garden in southwestern Montana in a fence-enclosed straw bale garden since I can no longer garden at ground level. This brings me even closer to my wonderful bees and butterflies and hummingbirds too.

    Greetings to all :-)

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